The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that a herbal drink promoted by the president of Madagascar as a cure for covid-19 should be tested to see if it is effective.
The WHO has no evidence the drink works, according to the head of the group’s Africa office.
Madagascar’s president, Andry Rajoelina, this week defended the unproven Covid-Organics drink, which is reportedly made from Artemisia annua (sweet wormwood) and herbs, telling France 24 it was a “preventive and curative remedy” and “works really well”.
However, when Matshidiso Moeti at the WHO Regional Office for Africa was asked during a press conference yesterday whether the WHO had any data or evidence of its efficacy, she said: “No, we do not.”
She said the WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus would soon be speaking with Rajoelina about the purported remedy. Moeti said the WHO supported the use of traditional medicine in African healthcare systems but studies must be carried out to see if they work.
In the case of Covid-Organics, she said the WHO wanted to see an assessment of its efficacy, and that the work could be undertaken by Madagascan scientists. “We have offered to support the design of a study to look into this product.” The WHO is in discussions with the Madagascan government, she said.
She added: “We are not discouraging the use of a product, but would like to advise that it be tested.”
The drink was developed by the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research and launched by Rajoelina last month. Orders have since been dispatched to several other countries, including Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Niger and Tanzania.
While the WHO says it isn’t discouraging use of the herbal drink, it has paid for advertisements to appear alongside Google searches for Artemisia annua. The advertisements lead to a WHO page that says such medicinal plants should be tested for efficacy and negative side effects. “Africans deserve to use medicines tested to the same standards as people in the rest of the world,” a statement says.
Research is under way in Europe to assess the prospects of extracts of A. annua as a treatment against the new coronavirus, following initial work in China that showed promise.
The Malagasy Institute of Applied Research and the Madagascan government had not replied to requests for comment at time of publication.
(Source: New Scientist)